Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Laws and Regulations
Managed honey bee colonies are an important part of Florida agriculture. They produce unique varieties of Florida honey, pollinate many plants that produce fruits, vegetables and nuts, and support the livelihood of Florida beekeepers.
Why Are There Honey Bees on My Property?
It is not uncommon in Florida for honey bees to be present in the environment, not managed by a beekeeper. Wild or, more appropriately, feral honey bees have the potential to be a nuisance when found on private or commercial property, either in a swarm state or fully developed as an established colony.
Part of the reproductive life cycle of the honey bee is called swarming, an event in which a new colony is produced from an existing colony. This cycle effectively has two stages — the swarm, a transient group consisting of one queen and many worker honey bees that exists for a short time (a few hours to a few days), and an established colony that has nested in a location and started building comb in their permanent residence. The distinction between a swarm and an established colony is important because a swarm is relatively docile as they have no nest to protect. Thus, bees in a swarm tend not to sting. A swarm ranges in size from that of a baseball to that of a basketball and typically hangs from a tree branch, fence or other object.
Established colonies build layers of wax comb, are composed of thousands of bees, make and store honey, rear brood (developing bees) and will actively defend their nest (sting). The colonies can grow quite large, often as large as the nest cavity they occupy. Colonies will have a lot of activity or "bee traffic" going into and out of a small opening of the cavity in which the bees reside.
Are Feral Honey Bees a Nuisance?
Honey bees can become a nuisance when they take up residence in cavities near places where people frequent, such as soffits and walls of homes/buildings, lawn debris, water meter boxes, oak trees, etc. Nuisance colonies become problematic when they pose a stinging threat to nearby humans and animals.
What Do I Do When I Find a Swarm or Colony on My Property?
It is the responsibility of the property owner to deal with an unwanted swarm or colony of honey bees. When a property owner encounters a swarm or an established colony, they have two options: have it removed alive or have it eradicated.
In some cases, depending on the size, location and temperament of an established colony, a registered Florida beekeeper can remove an established colony and all of its components (bees, comb, brood, honey) and relocate it safely to an apiary. Swarms, given their transient state and docile nature, usually can be removed easily and relocated to an apiary.
Eradication of a colony by a certified pest control operator (PCO) is often the choice when the colony is nesting in a location that does not facilitate safe removal (e.g., high up in a tree, deep in an occupied dwelling, near a school, etc.), is deemed no longer able to thrive, or poses a stinging threat to humans.
It is important to note that it is the property owner’s choice concerning how a colony is removed. Although honey bees are an important agricultural resource, it is NOT illegal for a licensed pest control company to eradicate a nuisance honey bee colony. In some cases, public safety necessitates that a given colony be eradicated.
Never attempt to remove or eradicate nuisance bees or a colony yourself. It can be dangerous and, if not done properly, a violation of state or federal pesticide laws.
Bee Removal or Eradication List
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) staff/inspectors are not authorized to remove or eradicate bees for a private property owner. However, FDACS maintains a list of Registered Beekeepers and Certified Pest Control Operators who perform bee removal and/or eradication services. FDACS provides this list for reference purposes only. No endorsement or recommendation is implied.
Registered beekeepers or PCOs who perform bee removal or eradication services and would like to be included on the list are asked to complete form FDACS 13689: Request for Inclusion on Bee Removal or Eradication List [ ] and email it to Lisa.Brown8@FreshFromFlorida.com.
Tips for the Consumer
When a company or person is hired to remove or eradicate a colony on your property, FDACS suggests the following:
- Ask for their beekeeper registration number or pest control license number (this is required in order to perform eradication or removal in the state of Florida).
- Ask if the beekeeper or pest control operator carries liability insurance.
- Ask about their plan to remove existing comb and honey that could attract nearby bees.
- Ask about the method of removal or eradication they will be using and where the bees are being relocated.
- Ask about their plan to repair, replace or otherwise completely seal off the site after colony removal.
- This repair should be conducted by a licensed contractor who is familiar with building code regulations in your area (this will not necessarily be the beekeeper or pest control operator who performs the removal).
- If a tree needs to be removed or cut, ask if there is a plan to remove any remaining parts or debris from your property.
- After colony removal or eradication, be sure to check for further bee activity at the site and follow up with the company/person hired, if needed.
Laws, Requirements and Regulations
FDACS regulates pest control under Chapter 482, Florida Statutes (F.S.). Eradication of pests (including nuisance honey bees) meets the definition of pest control, Chapter 482.021, F.S. Therefore, a person being hired to eradicate a honey bee swarm or established colony (even if they do not make a pesticide application) must be licensed in either General Household Pest (GHP), which covers indoor and outdoor removal, or Lawn & Ornamental (L&O), which covers eradication of bees only if they are located outside a structure, as in a tree.
Beekeepers hired to remove bees are required to be registered with FDACS’s Apiary Section, but need not be licensed under Chapter 482, F.S. Registered beekeepers can remove and relocate nuisance swarms or established colonies in accordance with Rule 5E-14.151, Florida Administrative Code, and can apply to be on the Bee Removal or Eradication List. For more information on becoming a registered beekeeper, please visit the Beekeeper Registration page.